NC Central preps for Morgan State, returns key players

College Sports

NCCU’s home stadium (Getty Images)

BALTIMORE, M.D. (WNCN) – The most valuable person on a football team is usually the quarterback, running back or a big-time defensive player. But the most valuable person on the University of North Carolina Central Eagles team last week wasn’t a player. 

It was head athletic trainer Sean Thomas, who the team has called ‘invaluable’.

The first six games left the Eagles battered and bruised. When NC Central faced Tennessee Tech, 32 players sat out due to injury. With only 116 listed on the website, some positions were razor thin. 

“Defensive end Jessie Malit, Tre Turner and Colby Warrior were out – that’s three at one position right there,” NC Central head coach Trei Oliver said. “We played the last game and only had two scholarship defensive ends dressed out.” 

For getting healthy, last week’s bye could not have come at a better time. The Eagles get back some much-needed depth. 

Starting with the aforementioned defensive ends, NC Central will see the return of wide receiver Daeshawn Stephens, along with offensive linemen Corey Bullock and Devin Jordan. Additionally, quarterback Davius Richard is not 100-percent, but is doing much better, the coach said. 

With this much talent returning, Oliver hopes it will give his offense the boost it needs. 

“Now that we have a little more continuity, I think we will be a lot more explosive offensively,” he said. “When you have different people there every day it affects you, so now that we have some guys back in the lineup, we are going to try to put this thing together and put some points up on the scoreboard.” 

Their tough non-conference opponents helped prepare them for the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) teams. That, plus team injuries also left them with a 2-4 record. But, having yet to play a conference game, their year will come down to the next five games. 

“This is a new season regardless of what happened the first half,” Oliver said. “We are going to put that behind us and work to come up with a plan to meet Morgan State, and then we will take it one game at a time.” 

Oliver said his top priority was getting his team healthy during the off week. Priority number two was getting back to the basics of football. 

“We spent the majority of the time with just technique and fundamentals – it wasn’t really about running plays and things of that nature,” Oliver said. “It’s also trying to develop young guys. We got those down-the-line guys a lot of reps this week, and got a chance to watch them run around and continue to evaluate them.” 

With all the injuries they suffered over the first six games, those younger players might find themselves on the bench one week and in the starting line-up the next, Oliver said.

Regardless, the Eagles have owned their next opponent, Morgan State, in recent years. They’ve won the last three straight. 

The Bears are winless on the year, and in their most recent game, committed seven turnovers.

However, Oliver said his team cannot ignore the physical group with talented pieces. 

“I think they have one of the best defensive tackles in the conference (Marcus Coleman), and a (top) corner (Quri Hickman). They play a lot of linebackers that I think are athletic and can run,” Oliver said. “Like we say every week (though), it’s about us, not about Morgan.” 

Kickoff is scheduled for Saturday at 1 p.m. inside Hughes Stadium in Baltimore. 

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